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It's been eight months since I last attended the weekly vigil in the park next to the J.C. Nichols fountain at 47th and Main in Kansas City. Working on elections to change the world sometimes takes precedence.

The bad news in the world today and the poor manner in which it's covered put me in a surly mood.

It's been a little over 1500 days (yeah, I keep track) since I first started doing this. I decide I'm going to drive the hour into the city and stand at the entrance of the Plaza with my signs. And so, I find myself again standing in the same place holding my "one nation, under surveillance" sign.

My preparation has changed a bit over the last four years. Experience has taught me the value of layers in cold weather. Still, I miscalculate the cold today. I carry ID, a cell phone, and a digital camera (handy - individuals tend to not escalate confrontations when they know they're being photographed). When I first started the camera was an inexpensive 35 mm job that allowed me to take mediocre pictures. Now, I have a compact high resolution digital camera which allows me to do the same. Now, my cell phone has a wireless earpiece which flashes a blue telltale every three seconds. When I first started out I didn't even have a cell phone. The signs are the same.

As I approach the park next to the Plaza I see that no one else is there. It's a half hour before the regularly scheduled start. I find a parking place, go over to the passenger side to get my things, hang my camera bag over my shoulder, put a down vest on, reconsider that, try to take off the down vest, get tangled in the strap, swear, finally get arranged, get my coat on, place my cell phone in an outer pocket, and finally, call the spouse to let her know I made it. I put on a wool cap. I grab my signs and head to the north side of 47th street.

It's cold. The wind is coming from the northwest (thankfully mostly to my back). I'm getting pelted with snow flurries. I had miscalculated the weather - I curse the weather forcasters - I had left my heavy winter gloves at home - I have lighter leather gloves on. So, there I am, standing alone with my sign, realizing that my hands are freezing, and cursing the world and the weather. I pull on my hood.

People driving by on 47th street start honking and waving.

For twenty minutes I'm on my own. I swivel, as if on a pedestal, to face the alternating waves of traffic coming from each direction. Then, slowly, at around 4:00 p.m., others start showing up.  At its peak we have 20 people on the line. I meet and greet some old friends.

The local professional American rules football sports collective (an old joke - sue me) has a home game today. Their drunken fans should be coming into the Plaza for more drinking after the game ends. Right about now. In the past, they were fairly vicious to the pickets on the line. Now, they are subdued or supportive. Still, we get a number of birds and sour looks. A thumb down here and there. The vast majority of the reactions are positive. Peace signs. Thumbs up. A wave. A smile.

A car comes east out of the Plaza. The driver yells "I love bush. I love bush. I love bush." down the line.

It's New Year's Eve on the Plaza. Lots of wealthy people are driving in for the parties.

One well dressed young woman rolls down the window of her expensive car and calls out, "2006 is over. Why don't you celebrate the New Year?" On the picket line we all look at each other, then start laughing. Only, it's not really funny. Tell that to the Marines.

A car full of twenty somethings drives past us. They greet us with self confident smirks on their faces and extended middle fingers. I wonder why they haven't yet volunteered.

A drunken young sports fan, hanging out the passenger window, yells at me, slurring his speech, "Your sign doesn't make any sense!" I'm not quick enough to reply, "Drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

The average age of everyone on the line must be close to 60. many have been here every week for over four years. One, obviously a pacifist, asks me, "Have you been trained in non-violence?" I think she's worried about me. I reply, "I can only say what Jesse Jackson once said. God is not finished with me yet." Relieved, she laughs.

A well dressed fifty something accompanied by a younger woman in an expensive two-door pulls to stop in front of me. The passenger side window comes down. The look on his face tells me that he's quite satisfied with himself. He's going to impress someone.

Mockingly, he calls out, "Do you have any republican literature?" "Do you have any republican literature?"

I wait a beat and I reply, "Nah, why would I? They're in the minority. And they're a bunch of losers."

The driver looks down - he can't come up with a response. The passenger smiles and starts to laugh. He smiles. The passenger window starts to come up. I start laughing. I give him a thumbs up and call out "Happy New Year". The car drives west into the plaza.    

Yeah. Happy New Year.

At 5:00 p.m. I walk away from 47th street and head to my car for the hour long drive home.

Originally posted to paradocs on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:52 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have to give you a lot of credit (6+ / 0-)

    The cold keeps me in. Great job.

  •  Excellent work (4+ / 0-)

    Happy New Year

    Have A Bloggy Day :)

    by eeff on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:57:37 AM PST

  •  Nice work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradocs, jimstaro

    You are reminding me that some things still need to be protested.

    The wise are driven by reason; ordinary minds, by experience; the stupid, by necessity, and brutes by instinct. Cicero

    by MoDem on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:31:03 AM PST

  •  That was fantastic, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradocs, Little Red Hen, jimstaro

    brave, and a great way to welcome the new year.

    Great job with your diary, and wonderful job with your protest vigil.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:32:17 AM PST

  •  did no one honk or otherwise support? (0+ / 0-)

    or is it just that the opponents' comments make a better story?

    •  You're A Lawyer??? (0+ / 0-)

      People driving by on 47th street start honking and waving.

      I wish folks would read, and yes follow links in these postings, before replying.

      Unless of course boards like this want to share the bottom with the Yahoo Google group boards!

      Great Discriptive Diary and All Too Familiar, showing once again of How Many, in this Nation, rush into Denial!!!

      The Failed Policies will Haunt Us and the World for Decades

      by jimstaro on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 06:08:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  way to go (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    thanks for your story.

    at our vigil/picket we get more and more support. the people are on our side now. even the ones whose cars are festooned with flags and ribbons.

    we have counterprotesters across the street who used to yell about Jane Fonda and headchoppers and stuff. now they are more quiet.

    do you hand out flyers at the vigil? that is a good thing if there is a stop light.

    re elections - some of the vigilers here also volunteered on the (successful) campaign of an anti-war candidate.

    an ambulance can only go so fast - neil young

    by mightymouse on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 07:17:30 AM PST

  •  Like Diogenes sought honesty, Your Vigil (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradocs, jfdunphy

    prods observers to search their conscience and question their government.  I’m sure this causes a variety of reactions.  Those who react with derision represent a large group of people in this country who can’t or won’t question themselves or their country.  They are quite comfortable with their ignorance and their version of reality.  They don’t want reality to confront them with truths they would rather not know.

    Thank you for your citizenship.  Although you won’t often be witness to the changes you inspire, when you open up a closed mind here, and inspire an passive progressive to action there, you are serving your country in the best way.  

    •  Nothing personal, but your view is wrong. (0+ / 0-)

      Contrary to popular belief, I (and most Republicans I know) am very questioning of the world around me.  I'm quite introspective, and look to see where I might be wrong on something.  And, when it comes to the war in Iraq, I may not like the way it is going, but I still strongly support it.

      The problem with your logic is that you automatically assume that someone would have to be ignoring the situation in order to perceive it differently than you.  There are plenty who agree with you, but don't simply write off those who disagree as ignorant or closed-minded.  Otherwise, you are being exactly that which you are accusing others of.

      •  Sacrifice (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...And, when it comes to the war in Iraq, I may not like the way it is going, but I still strongly support it...

        I don't know you, and I can't speak to the sacrifices you've made in your strong support of the war.

        What I have found in participating in hundreds of small scale public vigils and protests is that there are a significant number of people who support the war, but aren't willing to sacrifice anything other than their critical thinking skills and maybe, the Constitution.

        One case, in point, from almost fifteen months ago. I had a brief e-mail exchange with a former student. My reply to him:

        Dear XXXXX,

        I was pleased to hear from you - and glad to hear that life is going well.

        [personal information removed]

        These are extraordinary times. There are very real and serious consequences for every one of our actions. I no longer hold back my voice in the interest of not ruffling any feathers (as if I ever did), nor am I now interested in keeping a civil tongue.

        It's very clear to me that you love your family and your unfolding life, as well you should. I am perplexed by your statement "...I still valiantly support our President". I'm no longer interested in this debate, the time for the "game" of debate is long since past, and I, for one, am tired of that game. But, I must ask you this question, the tortured peregrinations of Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding: If you haven't yet done so, why haven't you enlisted?

        The unpleasant realities trump any debate. Nor, for my own selfish reasons, do I hope or want to encourage you to place yourself in harm's way - I already live in constant fear of the possible bad news in regard to others I know who have volunteered themselves.

        As always, I hold you in high regard.


        I have not heard from him again.

        I do have students who have enlisted and who serve. I have a signficant number of other students who "support the war" yet can't be bothered to enlist and serve.

        •  My own background, (0+ / 0-)

          I am a veteran.  I enlisted in 1999 in the U.S. Navy, and served until 2005.  At that juncture, I tried to either switch branches to the USAF, or to become an officer in the Navy.  I was denied due to body fat (I was one or two percent over the limit-I could pass all the physical tests, but I had too much gut).  I am currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and upon completion of my degree in political science and (hopefully) law, I hope to be in good enough shape to go back to the service as a JAG officer.

          As to the critical thinking/Constitution sacrificing remarks, I think that it is awfully close-minded to suggest that someone who doesn't oppose the war is lacking in critical thinking.  Knowing what we know now, perhaps we shouldn't have went in.  I'm still in the small minority that sees a possibility that they could have been transported to Syria, but even throwing that possibility out, Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people, and postured as if he had WMD.  The old saying applies-"If it barks like a dog, walks like a dog, and looks like a dog..."

          But let's say that we shouldn't have went in.  The fact of the matter is, President Bush was authorized to use force, and Saddam had a full year of warning from President Bush, and 12 years of negotiations from the U.S.  We are now there, and to extract ourselves before the job at hand is complete would be a catastrophe that is unimaginable.

          With respects to your Constitution-sacrificing remarks, when it comes to detainees, they are not accorded full Constitutional rights, because they are not subject to the Constitution.  That would be tantamount to saying that we could levy an income tax on enemy combatants, because it's a Constitutional mandate.  There is currently a military tribunal system in place, and so long as there is a honest and swift review of whether they are enemy combatants, then we are meeting our obligations to them.  If you are referring to torture, there are already laws on the books to punish those misguided servicemembers who would engage in these activities.  And, we have to be careful what we define as torture.  Waterboarding?  Yes.  Playing loud music and causing them to lose some sleep?  If so, you might want to bring the U.N. to my apartment complex, as there are several tenants here violating my Geneva Convention rights.  We don't know exactly what interrogation techniques they use, and for good reason.  It would be the equivalent of giving the opposing team your playbook.  If you know what plays they are going to run, all you have to do is practice against that.

          I wish I could say the war is going better, but when you put it in historical perspective, not only on the number of deaths our servicemembers have had to endure, but also the point at where Iraq stands, juxtaposed against Japan and Germany post-WW2, I would say that we are in a far better position now than then.

          •  You want to go to law school? (0+ / 0-)

            They must not have covered the Constitution in your classes yet.

            Rule of Law: An Absolute Prohibition of Torture

            Rule of Law?

            James B. Staab, "`With the Stroke of a Pen': President Bush Cannot Unilaterally Establish Military Commissions", Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies: Papers from the March 2003 Counter-Terrorism & Civil Liberties Conference, Central Missouri State University, 3, pp. 53-65 [as numbered]. ISSN 1-538-7909.

            Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

            Yeah, I know a JAG officer - he actually does have critical thinking skills. You could probably benefit from the association.

            •  It's good to see that you have your civility. (0+ / 0-)

              After all, insulting people is the hallmark of getting them to look at your case and judge it on its merits.

              In either case, I do have a good understanding of the Constitution, and while I don't yet have the vast case knowledge that some have, that might be because this is my first year back, and my classes have all been general education courses.  The paper by Dr. Staab is perhaps the best critique from your side that I have read.  However, I take contention with some of his points, such as relying on Justice Hugo Black's dissent in Johnson v. Eisentrager for much of his support on why that is a bad case to reference.  With all due respect to Justice Black, dissents have no legal tender, but rather are a viewpoint against the majority.  They are good quotables, but they are not decisions of the Court which can be referenced as precedent.  Furthermore, if I am reading his paper correctly, he doesn't seem to state a case which would give clear-cut precedent to giving foreign enemy combatants access to our legal system, except for Eisentrager.

              Perhaps President Bush was wrong in his interpretation of the law with regards to military commissions, and if so, then he was wrong, and has been corrected by Hamdan.

              If laws were broken, then they need to be corrected, swiftly and correctly.  I have often contended that Congress has not done its job as it has needed to with regards to oversight.  If you are trying to make me out as an apologist for the Republican Congress of the last few years, the only reason I wanted them in there was because I believe that the qualities I don't like about the current batch of Congressmen will only be enlarged by a Democrat Congress.  That is nothing to say of your party, personally, but I have disagreement with policies that many espouse.

              What troubles me about you is the fact that you seem to make it personal -- if you don't agree with me, you are a bad person, you don't think about anything, how could anyone reasonable come to a different conclusion than me, etc.

              And, as far as the JAG officer, I would love to meet him - not because my critical thinking skills need work, as you might contend (they do, but so do everyone's-none are perfect), but because I think there would be much common ground between the two of us due to our military backgrounds, and because I would benefit from the knowledge of someone whose career I hope to follow in the footsteps of.

              •  A civil tongue? (0+ / 0-)

                My personal experiences over the last six years give me no inclination to offer a civil tongue. I'm not interested in holding hands and singing songs of brotherhood.

                ...the best critique from your side that I have read...

                It's the side of the Constitution and the angels. So much for dubya being a "uniter, not a divider", eh?

                The telling point in James Staab's paper does not come from the dissent in Eisentrager, but in that, for the present case, Congress has not declared war. The seperation of powers argument is another. Note the date of his paper. The supremes said the same thing three years later in Hamdan.

                ...the current batch of Congressmen will only be enlarged by a Democrat Congress...

                Typical republican shill - the proper usage is Democratic. You watch too much of the Faux News Channel - not too helpful in developing those essential critical thinking skills.

  •  It's been longer than 8 months since I went... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's been longer than 8 months since I went...

    And I meant to go this week -- It would have been a great way to start the year.  

    There's no good excuse (I mean it was good enough to keep me from going.  But good enough, really?), but I didn't make it.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.  Maybe I'll be able to get to the Plaza next week.  

    Eat 4 Today: Defeating Republicans through diet and exercise!

    by katiebird on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 11:42:50 PM PST

  •  I've lived in kc all my life (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hey I'm young and live in kc, we'll try to represent this week.  I never made the connection that the protest was organized weekly.

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